FIYH 109-111: Non-Negotiables

Let’s say you’re a busy pastor and don’t want to make time or can’t make time to follow all the advice we’re been reading about the past week or two. What do you do? A brief section on the “non-negotiables.” Let’s read:

[109] As we mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, there is no one way to prepare a homily, nor does a particular method work the same way all the time for the same person. But no matter what the method, there are certain elements in the preparation of the homily which cannot be omitted if our preaching over the long term is going to be scripturally sound and pastorally relevant. We may be able to “wing it” on occasion, but to try to sustain a weekly ministry of preaching with little more than a glance at the lectionary and the quick consultation of a homily service is to attempt the impossible.

[110] Effective preaching-that is, preaching that enables people to hear the Word of God as good news for their lives and to respond accordingly – requires time and serious work. Unless we are willing to accept the drudgery that is a part of preaching, as it is of all creative work, we will not know the joy of having the Scriptures come alive for us, nor the profoundly satisfying experience of sharing that discovery with others.

The bishops wrap up chapter IV with a summary list:

[111] To conclude this chapter on homiletic method we would point to what we consider to be the non-negotiable elements of effective preaching:

1. Time. The amount of time will vary from preacher to preacher. However, the importance of the ministry of preaching demands that a significant amount of time be devoted to the homily each week, and ideally, that this time be spread out over the entire week.

2. Prayer. All preaching flows from faith to faith. It is only through prayer that faith is nourished.

3. Study. Without continuing study; stagnation sets in and preaching becomes insipid. Preachers have a professional responsibility to continue their education in the areas of Scripture, theology, and related disciplines. They might well make a book on preaching part of their regular reading program.

4. Organization. Much preaching suffers from lack of direction and the absence of a central, controlling idea. The writing and revising of homilies helps to ensure that there is a point to what we preach.

5. Concreteness. Another common fault of preachers is their tendency to speak in vague generalities or to use technical theological language. Once again, writing and revising helps to ensure that homilies are concrete and specific.

6. Evaluation. In public discourse we easily fall back on familiar ideas and set patterns of speech. More often than not, we are unaware of such tendencies and need the feedback of others to alert us to them.

Everything here look okay? Any additions or subtractions?

(All texts from Fulfilled in Your Hearing are copyright © 1982 USCCB. All rights reserved. Used with permission.)

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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1 Response to FIYH 109-111: Non-Negotiables

  1. Liam says:

    Another non-negotiable:

    Do not tell me in your homily:

    1. Your difficulties in preparing the homily;
    2. How you got your idea for the homily.

    Because these focus on you. And you are not the subject of the homily.

    PS: It’s interesting that the focus of homiletics here assumes you will be only homilizing on Sunday (when it’s required) – that you’ve got a week between homilies. A very low bar….

    A question for our homilist readers: how does homilizing at weekday and ritual Masses affect your Sunday homilies and preparation therefor?

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